Syrian rebels complete Idlib heavy arms pullout: Turkey state media

ANKARA: Syrian rebels have completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the frontline of the last opposition-held province of Idlib, Turkish state media reported Monday.

Citing their correspondent in Idlib, news agency Anadolu said the withdrawal was concluded under a deal reached last month between Syrian regime ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara.

Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces as well as anti-regime armed groups pulled out heavy weapons, including rocket launchers, mortars and medium-range missiles, Anadolu added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on September 17 to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib.

The accord aims to stave off a massive regime assault on Idlib province by creating a 15 to 20-kilometre (9-12 mile) buffer zone ringing the area.

All rebels in the demilitarised zone must withdraw heavy arms by Wednesday, and radical groups must leave by October 15, under the deal.

The National Liberation Front (NLF), the main Turkey-backed rebel alliance in the Idlib area, announced Saturday it had begun withdrawing heavy arms as part of the agreement and the withdrawal would take several days.

The Syrian war has left more than 360,000 people dead since it began in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

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